The fourth annual catchment wide rapid assessment survey of otter (Lutra lutra) took place on Friday and Saturday of last week (7th and 8th June 2013) in near perfect surveying conditions. A prolonged period of dry weather in the preceding 10 days meant that rivers were in low flow and evidence of otter was more prevalent than the 2012 survey.
Field based otter training June 2013 (Image: Ruairí Ó Conchúir)
Almost 100 sites were included in the comprehensive survey which covered the entire catchment of 650sq Km covering counties Limerick, North Tipperary and South Tipperary.
Fresh otter spraint with fish scales & bone fragments (Image – Ruairí Ó Conchúir)
The work was undertaken by a total of eight teams over the two days, with a minimum of two and up to three per team. Teams were comprised of MulkearLIFE staff, colleagues from Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) and twelve members of the Mulkear Conservation Volunteers. Many of the volunteers had participated in previous rapid assessment surveys for otter in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and are now experienced surveyors.
Field based otter training – Killeenagarriff Bridge (Image: Ruairí Ó Conchúir)
The two-day survey was preceded by a training workshop on the Wednesday 5th June which provided in-house and field based training in otter survey methodology and identification for MCV members and IFI staff. The workshop also served as a useful refresher course for those who had surveyed previously.
Site with multiple otter spraints on the Dead River (Image: Glen Wightman)
The training also focused on the methodology regarding the collection of otter spraint which was undertaken this year for the first time.
Surveying on Newport River at Ballymackeogh Bridge (Image: Ruairí Ó Conchúir)
This is MulkearLIFE’s fourth annual rapid assessment survey for otter. MulkearLIFE’s annual survey is amongst the most comprehensive otter survey work undertaken anywhere in Ireland on a catchment basis.
Some of the best evidence found directly under bridges (Image: Glen Wightman)
For the first time this year, otter spraints were collected. These will be used in DNA analysis work will greatly assist in giving an estimate of the national adult otter population and a better understanding of the otter usage of sites and extent of individual territory.
Surveying on Newport River at Portryan Bridge (Image: Ruairí Ó Conchúir)
The full results of the survey will be available over the next number of weeks and will help guide MulkearLIFE’s work with otter. In particular, the survey findings will help with the continuation of the project’s work in terms of the placement of artificial otter holts and the creation of habitat for otter.
Louise Looney & Patrick Lenihan in the upper catchment (Image: Ruairí Ó Conchúir)
A Big Thank You to all who helped in the survey and especially to our colleagues in IFI and to 12 members of the Mulkear Conservation Volunteers, who not only attained the otter training workshop, but who gave so generously of their time on Friday and Saturday. We especially thank the new MCV members who joined us this year.
Fields of buttercups, survey site in the Upper Catchment (Image: Ruairí Ó Conchúir)
Once all sites are verified a summary of the survey findings will be posted.